Returning Waves/Karlowicz

November 28, 2008

 

 

 

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While Karlowicz in his native Poland is among the more important composers of the 20th century he has been pretty much an unknown outside his country. In fact until Naxos recently released his (6) symphonic poems this reviewer had no previous knowledge of his all too brief career. Yes there were other recordings but it was something that never caught my attention. Whether by accident or suicide he died in an avalanche hiking/skiing in his favorite part of the world the Tatra Mountains at the age of 33. Months before his death he spoke of suicide due to an unrequited love but this theory has never been supported with any facts.

Written in 1904 “Returning Waves” was the first of his (6) tone poems and while it is performed in a single movement of 24+ minutes there are 5 different sections of the work. Written about a story, which takes place at the Aegean Sea, by Turgenev, it tells a cinematic tale about life, love, and death in the Wagnerian style of motifs. While one can clearly hear the influence of Tchaikovsky, Dukas, Miaskovsky, Glazunov and Richard Strauss in his writing you can also hear his very special style in this neo-romantic period piece.

With the brass making the opening statement, the first section begins yielding to the bass clarinet and strings, which set the mood of a dark and eerie piece. The bassoon offers a motif and it appears thru the entire work further enhancing the overall dreariness of the piece. It offers little or no hope and one can feel the end coming. The second section brightens up considerably with heroic horns offering a moment of happiness and serenity. Perhaps all is well after all? The third section offers a peaceful melody from the clarinet followed by strings, the sea is calm and quiet. In the fourth section one can feel the building of the swirling wind and storm approaching which ends abruptly with a return to the melody from the first section. It is dreary and the decision has been made.

If you like your music on the dark side in a minor key this is an excellent choice especially if your taste in music migrates to the cinema side from time to time. While I certainly cannot put this work in the class of an Scheherazade I’ve found something hypnotizing about it and I’ll return to it on a regular basis. An excellent symphonic poem!

 

Produced and Engineered by Tim Handley

Naxos CD# is 8.570295

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